How to Manage Religious Observations in the Workplace
With the diversification of the workforce, the matter of religious diversity is a topic that many employers have either broached or need to broach. And with observations such as Christmas upon us, the topic of religion in the workplace is timely.
Tolerance of differing religious values is a topic that many encounter both at work and outside the office. And with the workforce becoming more and more diverse, understanding how to broach employees’ religious rights is imperative for employers. While managing religious diversity in the workplace is a topic that each employer should address on an individual basis, having some general guidelines can help.
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot discriminate or treat employers less favorably because of their religious beliefs. This means that the responsibility falls on employers to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices at work, as long as it does not cause "undue hardship" for the employer, such as incurring exorbitant costs. This could be something as simple as an employee needing a day off to observe a religious holiday, requiring a flexible work schedule or accommodations for their dress. Employers should always focus on an employee’s productivity and ability to complete their job, regardless of which accommodation, religious or otherwise, is being requested.
Employers cannot broach the subject of religion on a job application or during an interview. For instance, as an employer you cannot ask any applicant if their religion will prevent them from working certain days. Alternately, it is the responsibility of employees to outline any religious accommodations they require, along with any other accommodations, to their employer.
As an employer, unless the accommodation causes you hardship, you should always try to address individual employee’s religious needs when and if possible. Consider these requests on a case-by-case basis, and if they do not disrupt daily business, they should be accommodated. In fact, accommodating an employee’s religious practices can actually go a long way in showcasing your tolerance for diversity and respect for your workforce.
In some cases, accommodating religious beliefs translates into what a given employee chooses to wear. If you operate a business where certain dress requirements are necessary, negotiating acceptable workplace attire is important. For instance, your employee may choose to wear a Turban. If this does not infringe on dress code, this should be considered acceptable.
Employers that encourage their workforce to be tolerant of diversity, including respecting individuals religious beliefs, dress to observing and decorating the office for all holiday observations, if possible, will ultimately make for a happier workplace.